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Cutting Edge Musician Teams With Cutting Edge Musician to Create Cutting Edge Music

Jon Hopkins

On Nov. 2 experimental musician Brian Eno will release his 25th studio album, titled Small Craft On A Milk Sea, an album that the 62 year-old composer created with the collaboration of 28 year-old electronic musician, Jon Hopkins. This week NPR released a streaming version of Eno’s latest album. Needless to say, the album is unlike most music, a feat that can be hard to achieve. But this isn’t an album review. Listen to Small Craft and you won’t regret it, but  I don’t need to, and am not qualified to rate one of this generation’s greatest musicians latest works, but cheers to whomever does. At first reference though, Jon Hopkins seemed to me like a side-note to Eno’s haunting and complex release, until this week.

A friend of mine caught a mind bending show in Montreal, electronic mastermind Four Tet, with Jon Hopkins, an opening act that was unknown to most of the crowd. When he returned from the show he was raving. Four Tet was out of this world, he said, but the opening act nearly blew him away. Lucky guy, I thought. It’s not every show that the the audience is treated with an opening act up to par with the headliner. At home, describing the indescribable music experience he had just enjoyed, he compared Hopkins to Four Tet, Aphex Twin, James Holden, household names in the electronic music scene. Hopkins is not a household name though and we spent the remainder of the night scouring the world wide web for a quality download of his album, 2008’s Insides (we didn’t even consider checking iTunes of course, my friend had already paid to see him live, isn’t that enough?). It took a while but we found it and it was glorious. Insides does everything an abstract electronic piece should. It’s dark, it’s beautiful, it’s haunting and it’s really danceable. Hopkins doesn’t just jump into his tracks either. He never fails to create the proper atmosphere, even if it takes 3 minutes of whispering drones to do it. “Vessel,” the second track on “Insides,” sounds like it could be the B-side to Aphex Twin’s “On” but with a more cinematic tone. He even drops a minimalist piano interlude, “Small Memory,” in the middle of the album, not unlike something one might hear on Drukqs. And like Aphex Twin, Hopkins started making music at a very young age. By 16 he was composing hypnotic drum’n’bass electronica music and by 19 he had released his first album, Opalescent, a record that earned him a small cult following.

Brian Eno

In 2004 he released his second album, Contact Note, and the comparisons to Brian Eno began. The cinematic feel of the album attracted attention from an unlikely source, English alternative rock band Coldplay. Coldplay hired Hopkins to work alongside Eno on their critically acclaimed album Viva La Vida. Coldplay would borrow Hopkins track “Light Through The Veins” to open Viva La Vida, re-composing the track and titling it “Life In Technicolor.” So why isn’t Hopkins the biggest name in electronic music right now? If praise from Brian Eno and the production of one of the world’s most popular bands’ most popular album isn’t enough to create a household name, what is? Eno, one of the most enduring and brilliant minds in music for the last 40 years hired a 28 year-old kid to help him re-imagine his sound. Hopkins’ sound can be heard very clearly on Eno’s record, and it works. Talk about connecting to today’s crowd. With the official release of Small Craft looming, expect Hopkins to blast off sooner rather than later.

-cory perla

  • Evan Meng

    You sold me on the Drukqs reference, I will have to check this out!

  • Jill

    Coldplay research thanks to Jill. Ahaha. No really though, this guy is jammin’

  • lisa

    Maannn…. can’t wait to check this out!! :)